Dying While Giving Life: Lack of Access and Equality are Killing Women

Maternal mortality is a hot topic right now—and it should be. One woman dies every minute during pregnancy or childbirth. Essentially, while you read this, a woman, a mother, a sister, a wife, a person, will die. That’s pretty disheartening. It is also, on the inspirational side, almost entirely preventable.

The duality of sadness and joy—death while giving life—is explored in Christy Turlington Burn’s moving directorial debut, No Woman, No Cry. I had the opportunity to view the film during a special screening at Harvard Medical School last night in Boston. The documentary takes viewers on a journey to four remote regions of the world, sharing stories of at-risk pregnant women in rural Tanzania, a slum in Bangladesh, a postabortion ward in Guatemala, and a prenatal clinic in the United States.

During the film I was struck by the strong themes that emerged around access and equality. Whether in Tanzania or Bangladesh, Guatemala or the United States, women can face incredible obstacles to skilled care that are often tied to financial means, transportation options, and education. I was impressed by Turlington Burns’ passion for saving women’s lives and respect for the complexity of the issues that maternal mortality involves.

Maternal mortality goes beyond a woman simply having access to a trained medical provider during delivery. The film explores challenges around cultural norms that value home delivery without a skilled birth attendant; sensitization of medical providers who sometimes judge or stigmatize lower income or less educated patients; as well as difficulty of addressing unsafe abortion, one of the leading causes of maternal mortality.

Following the screening, there was a palpable sense of frustration and inspiration during the question and answer period with the filmmaker and leading health experts. The audience—predominantly medical students, public health advocates, midwives, college students and international health experts—engaged in a lively discussion about how we can address the challenges presented. Everyone was eager to know: How can we raise our voices and make a difference?

I would argue it starts with all of us sharing her film! No Woman, No Cry will debut on Oprah’s new network May 7—just in time for Mother’s Day. If you can do one thing today, post this blog on Facebook, Twitter or send an email, and let people know about the film. Education and inspiration are the first steps toward larger change. Together we can raise critical awareness about maternal mortality and make sure no woman has to face death while giving life.


Photo from Every Mother Counts


jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Tammy F.
Tammy f6 years ago

Women Rock! Thank you for posting this.

Elena Arutiunova
Elena Arutiunova6 years ago

Shared! Thank you!

Lee S.
Lee S.6 years ago

I will go for the GOP getting out of every woman's uterus if every woman will get her hand out of the taxpayers' pockets.

Oprah is a billionaire Turlington is extremely wealthy...this can be their pet project. Let them open up their pocketbooks and all the wealthy millionaires billionaires you people DO somethign with all that money that you robbed from the rest of the world.

Christine S.

Again- it is a problem with men. Child marriage, denying access to contraception, unable to leave the house without a male present, desperate women turning to prostitution- all in all, women getting pregnant with no access to pre-natal care or care during labor.

Alicia N.
Alicia N6 years ago

noted, Women are Awesome, We deserve way better.!!!

Priyeni M.
Priyeni M.6 years ago

good article. In Sri Lanka I wonder how I can help make a difference. there are some NGOs that work in this field. Looking forward to seeing the film on Oprah's show - thnx

Dineen C.
Dineen C6 years ago

I want to make a difference, all women deserve better

Adele B.
Past Member 6 years ago

Thanks for sharing this story. We need to raise awareness and take action. No woman should die while giving birth to her baby. I will make it a point to watch OWN on May 7 and see what I could learn and do to make a difference.

Deborah L.
Deborah L6 years ago

Expect the death rates to raise drastically in the U.S. There are over 500 bills mostly from the GOP side interfering with women, their uterus's and their pregnancies which is not of their business. Instead of improving health care for women, they are hacking away at it with a chainsaw. And as for trying to dictate to women in other countries about their reproductive choices, it also none of their business.

The only thing that the U.S. GOP should be working on is getting out of the war business, rebuilding the infrastructure, creating jobs in this country besides for war purposes making certain we have clean air, water, safe food, safe work environments, livable wages, affordable food, shelter, medical and other necessities of life. A womans right to choose has a lot to do with the prior items listed. If we cannot afford to have these things in pace before a pregnancy or birth, then we are not ready to support another life.

GOP get out of my uterus.